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Monday, July 12, 2004

Paul Revere Was Unpardonably Shrill

I see that level headed grown-ups are giving us looney leftists another lecture on shrillness. The Bush administration isn't laying the groundwork for another undemocratic power grab with their discussion of postponing of the elections in the event of a terrorist attack. They are just being prudent. Everybody take a deep breath and calm your little selves down. This is silly.

It would be unforgiveably obnoxious to point out that little partisan impeachment episode and the very dubious election results in the state run by the president's brother back in 2000 as evidence that the Republicans are generally willing to go to unprecedented lengths to attain and maintain power. Neither should we be suspicious of their motives after they plainly decided after the WTC attacks to continue to govern with no regard for their political opposition in the congress or their allies overseas. Taking the country to war based upon false information should not be seen as evidence of their perfidy. Some might even say that the Republicans have been systematically defining democracy down for quite some time, but it would be unattractively shrill to mention it publicly.

One could also question the timing of this newfound concern about election tampering, if one were to retreat into leftist hand-wringing. Seeing as 9/11 actually happened during the NY mayoral primary and there was much discussion of whether the city should extend the heroic Giuliani's term, this concept of elections and terrorism is not new. One might wonder why nobody in this great country of ours this didn't think of this sometime before now, what with all the discussion of Homeland Security and electoral reform. But, it would be crude to mention that such things are probably best debated in the US Congress outside the election season rather than dealt with by ad hoc committees just three months prior to a national election.

It is true that the many thoughtful, restrained pundits on the right have made the case that the Spanish elections were manipulated by the terrorists and certainly the administration has been far from reticent in setting forth the proposition that should a similar thing take place here it would be with the express purpose of electing the soft ticket of Kerry-Edwards. It would be unpardonably disrespectful to mention that this is crude political fear mongering for which theme the alleged antidote --- postponing the elections in case of a terrorist attack --- contributes mightily. (And it would be very, very silly to note that this campaign theme is illogical in the extreme because to do so would be to accuse the administration of being dishonest, which is much too hysterical.)

I know that I have been shrill in the past --- as when I opposed the Iraq war because it was clear to me that the Bush administration was mendacious and incompetent to an extreme. And I was rude when I railed about the modern republican party's undemocratic tendencies as they systematically destroyed all pretenses of bipartisanship and consensus in the pursuit of raw political power. When I have said that they are incrementally corrupting the system to such an extent that by the time we notice it will be too late, people find that to be overwrought. These observations are unattractive and uncomfortable for people of genteel disposition.

When it was revealed, for instance, that there were no WMD, that the president intended to govern radically as if he had a mandate instead of a very dicey claim to power or that his administration believed that the president has the right to ignore laws under his power as commander in chief, one would have thought that would serve as a cautionary tale about their intentions. But apparently there is still a tremendous reserve of trust in these people's motives and our system's magical ability to hold back every undemocratic urge with no necessity for public involvement.

Certainly, some believe that our past history of success at beating back bad political actors should be seen as a something of a guarantee that our system will always hold. But, if that's so, it's likely because of one little amendment to our constitution --- the first one. Empowering the shrill is what keeps these people from going too far. Shut them down and the whole house of cards will fall apart.

Pavlov's Heathers

"Kerry, Edwards show public affection"


NEW YORK -- Bear hugs. Pats on the back. Shoulder squeezes. John Kerry and John Edwards are all over each other. The two Democrats and one-time rivals have shared so much public affection since becoming a team Tuesday that the presidential candidate even joked about it in New York after Edwards introduced him at fund-raisers and rallies - and hugged him before turning over the podium.

Kerry grinned and shook his head. 'There's been a lot of hugging this week,' the Massachusetts senator remarked with a chuckle Friday.

Later, Kerry mentioned that Jay Leno had teased the Democratic ticket for being so touchy-feely. Mocking the apparent chemistry between the candidates, 'The Tonight Show' strung together clips of the two in their first three days as running mates with Joe Cocker's weepy 1974 hit single 'You Are So Beautiful' played in the background.

'We make a great couple, ladies and gentlemen,' Kerry joked as New York donors cracked up.

Hugging, kissing and squeezing has become a part of every event since Kerry and Edwards set off on the campaign trail with their wives, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards, for the first time together Wednesday.

It doesn't matter if Kerry is introducing Edwards, or vice versa, the scene is always the same, the lovefest playing out at rallies in Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, New Mexico and New York.

With a toothy smile, the North Carolina senator opens his arms wide and wraps an equally sunny Kerry in a bear hug. The two clap each other sometimes once, often twice, on the back with both hands. Pulling apart, they each drape an arm around each other. Kerry waves with his free hand, and Edwards pumps his fist in the air, thumb up. Sometimes the two tilt their heads together to make inaudible comments.

Often described as aloof, wooden and emotionally detached, Kerry now appears much more relaxed and affectionate, his style more closely resembling his younger Senate colleague.

Foes in the Democratic primary season, Kerry and Edwards were joined at the hip as they strode across the lawn of Kerry's wife's sprawling estate in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, making their first public appearance as running mates. Holding hands with their respective wives, the two walked side by side, grinning, laughing and leaning into one another to talk.

As Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico welcomed the ticket on stage in Albuquerque on Friday, Kerry and Edwards threw their arms around each other or patted each other five times in less than a minute, and then clasped hands and raised them above their heads.

It's not just the candidates; their wives have been affectionate as well. On Friday, Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards embraced at three different venues.

And both men have covered their wives - and each other's wives - with kisses and hugs. At an outdoor rally in Beckley, W.Va., Heinz Kerry introduced Edwards, saying: "We have two 'Johnnys Be Good' here. John, without much ado." Edwards walked up and kissed her cheek.

Later in Albuquerque, Kerry returned the favor, leaning in and giving Edwards' wife a peck after she offered words of praise for Heinz Kerry.

Last week I wrote that the absurdity of this "John-John" affection theme was designed to give the mainstream media a bitchy, elitist chortle so that they would be unable to resist passing on the not-so-subtle propaganda point that there is something ridiculous about the Democrats --- particularly to those white males who have a long standing mistrust of liberals. It's done as a joke, in the mode of puerile bully Limbaugh who often insults with a stab in the gut and then claims he is a victim of political correctness if anyone complains. This particular one is the familiar Gore character assassination technique. The idea is to make it just silly enough that to respond with any outrage makes you look ridiculously sensitive but to not respond is to allow this theme of "deviance" of some sort to travel through the body politic in a subliminal way. I heard someone laughingly remark about it in the line at Starbucks -- "It's kind of creepy."

I don't think it really has anything to do with gay rights or gay marriage, although the cruder Michael Savage sorts will take that shot. It's actually subtler than that. It's more about Kerry and Edwards being unserious, soft and strange. And, like the mindless little children they are, the press has run with it without ever questioning whether they might just be being manipulated. Again.

Friendly Advice

Note to David Brooks who has so generously advised the Democrats on the subject of how our lack of values, religious fervor and embrace of secularism are holding us back at the polls this year: You'd better take a look in the mirror, Mister, before your party goes down that same path to perdition.

It is terribly unfair and ultimately counterproductive of your leadership to exclude the voices of grassroots "Red Lobster" Republicans from your convention. As you have repeatedly stated, the vast, vast majority of real Americans are social conservatives --- or would be if they could just hear the good news --- and they have a right (and you have an obligation) to see that their voices are heard throughout the land. Those fighting the good fight against the homosexual agenda, sex outside of wedlock, women's libbers and satanists are the backbone of America. To treat them with such contempt is to ensure your defeat at the polls this November. Remember, I only have your best interest at heart.

P.S. Be sure to spend lots of time pushing the gay marriage ban and the "women are subservient" themes. These are the issues American's are most concerned with today. Ignore them at your peril.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Tin Foil Government

In the comments section of the post below about postponing the elections, Rodger Payne alerts me to a disturbing article in the Atlantic called The Armageddon Plan.

While it doesn't specifically mention postponing elections, the Reagan administration evidently began a series of rather bizarre exercises to practice contingency plans in case of a nuclear attack. Even more disturbing is that Cheney and Rumsfeld, neither of whom were actually in the administration at the time, were intimately involved in the elaborate planning and gaming:

At least once a year during the 1980s Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld vanished. Cheney was working diligently on Capitol Hill, as a congressman rising through the ranks of the Republican leadership. Rumsfeld, who had served as Gerald Ford's Secretary of Defense, was a hard-driving business executive in the Chicago area—where, as the head of G. D. Searle & Co., he dedicated time and energy to the success of such commercial products as Nutra-Sweet, Equal, and Metamucil. Yet for periods of three or four days at a time no one in Congress knew where Cheney was, nor could anyone at Searle locate Rumsfeld. Even their wives were in the dark; they were handed only a mysterious Washington phone number to use in case of emergency.

After leaving their day jobs Cheney and Rumsfeld usually made their way to Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington. From there, in the middle of the night, each man—joined by a team of forty to sixty federal officials and one member of Ronald Reagan's Cabinet—slipped away to some remote location in the United States, such as a disused military base or an underground bunker. A convoy of lead-lined trucks carrying sophisticated communications equipment and other gear would head to each of the locations.

Rumsfeld and Cheney were principal actors in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan Administration. Under it U.S. officials furtively carried out detailed planning exercises for keeping the federal government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The program called for setting aside the legal rules for presidential succession in some circumstances, in favor of a secret procedure for putting in place a new "President" and his staff. The idea was to concentrate on speed, to preserve "continuity of government," and to avoid cumbersome procedures; the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the rest of Congress would play a greatly diminished role.

The inspiration for this program came from within the Administration itself, not from Cheney or Rumsfeld; except for a brief stint Rumsfeld served as Middle East envoy, neither of them ever held office in the Reagan Administration. Nevertheless, they were leading figures in the program.


The U.S. government considered the possibility of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union more seriously during the early Reagan years than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Reagan had spoken in his 1980 campaign about the need for civil-defense programs to help the United States survive a nuclear exchange, and once in office he not only moved to boost civil defense but also approved a new defense-policy document that included plans for waging a protracted nuclear war against the Soviet Union. The exercises in which Cheney and Rumsfeld participated were a hidden component of these more public efforts to prepare for nuclear war.

The premise of the secret exercises was that in case of a nuclear attack on Washington, the United States needed to act swiftly to avoid "decapitation"—that is, a break in civilian leadership. A core element of the Reagan Administration's strategy for fighting a nuclear war would be to decapitate the Soviet leadership by striking at top political and military officials and their communications lines; the Administration wanted to make sure that the Soviets couldn't do to America what U.S. nuclear strategists were planning to do to the Soviet Union.


The outline of the plan was simple. Once the United States was (or believed itself about to be) under nuclear attack, three teams would be sent from Washington to three different locations around the United States. Each team would be prepared to assume leadership of the country, and would include a Cabinet member who was prepared to become President. If the Soviet Union were somehow to locate one of the teams and hit it with a nuclear weapon, the second team or, if necessary, the third could take over.

This was not some abstract textbook plan; it was practiced in concrete and elaborate detail. Each team was named for a color—"red" or "blue," for example—and each had an experienced executive who could operate as a new White House chief of staff. The obvious candidates were people who had served at high levels in the executive branch, preferably with the national-security apparatus. Cheney and Rumsfeld had each served as White House chief of staff in the Ford Administration. Other team leaders over the years included James Woolsey, later the director of the CIA, and Kenneth Duberstein, who served for a time as Reagan's actual White House chief of staff.


Ronald Reagan established the continuity-of-government program with a secret executive order. According to Robert McFarlane, who served for a time as Reagan's National Security Adviser, the President himself made the final decision about who would head each of the three teams. Within Reagan's National Security Council the "action officer" for the secret program was Oliver North, later the central figure in the Iran-contra scandal. Vice President George H.W. Bush was given the authority to supervise some of these efforts, which were run by a new government agency with a bland name: the National Program Office. It had its own building in the Washington area, run by a two-star general, and a secret budget adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Much of this money was spent on advanced communications equipment that would enable the teams to have secure conversations with U.S. military commanders. In fact, the few details that have previously come to light about the secret program, primarily from a 1991 CNN investigative report, stemmed from allegations of waste and abuses in awarding contracts to private companies, and claims that this equipment malfunctioned.

The exercises were usually scheduled during a congressional recess, so that Cheney would miss as little work on Capitol Hill as possible. Although Cheney, Rumsfeld, and one other team leader took part in each exercise, the Cabinet members changed depending on who was available at a particular time. (Once, Attorney General Ed Meese participated in an exercise that departed from Andrews in the pre-dawn hours of June 18, 1986—the day after Chief Justice Warren Burger resigned. One official remembers looking at Meese and thinking, "First a Supreme Court resignation, and now America's in a nuclear war. You're having a bad day.")


The exercises were designed to be stressful. Participants gathered in haste, moved and worked in the early-morning hours, lived in Army-base conditions, and dined on early, particularly unappetizing versions of the military's dry, mass-produced MREs (meals ready to eat). An entire exercise lasted close to two weeks, but each team took part for only three or four days. One team would leave Washington, run through its drills, and then—as if it were on the verge of being "nuked"—hand off to the next team.


When George H.W. Bush was elected President, in 1988, members of the secret Reagan program rejoiced; having been closely involved with the effort from the start, Bush wouldn't need to be initiated into its intricacies and probably wouldn't re-evaluate it. In fact, despite dramatically improved relations with Moscow, Bush did continue the exercises, with some minor modifications. Cheney was appointed Secretary of Defense and dropped out as a team leader.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet collapse, the rationale for the exercises changed. A Soviet nuclear attack was obviously no longer plausible—but what if terrorists carrying nuclear weapons attacked the United States and killed the President and the Vice President? Finally, during the early Clinton years, it was decided that this scenario was farfetched and outdated, a mere legacy of the Cold War. It seemed that no enemy in the world was still capable of decapitating America's leadership, and the program was abandoned.

There things stood until September 11, 2001, when Cheney and Rumsfeld suddenly began to act out parts of a script they had rehearsed years before. Operating from the underground shelter beneath the White House, called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, Cheney told Bush to delay a planned flight back from Florida to Washington. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld instructed a reluctant Wolfowitz to get out of town to the safety of one of the underground bunkers, which had been built to survive nuclear attack. Cheney also ordered House Speaker Dennis Hastert, other congressional leaders, and several Cabinet members (including Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton) evacuated to one of these secure facilities away from the capital. Explaining these actions a few days later, Cheney vaguely told NBC's Tim Russert, "We did a lot of planning during the Cold War with respect to the possibility of a nuclear incident." He did not mention the Reagan Administration program or the secret drills in which he and Rumsfeld had regularly practiced running the country.

Their participation in the extra-constitutional continuity-of-government exercises, remarkable in its own right, also demonstrates a broad, underlying truth about these two men. For three decades, from the Ford Administration onward, even when they were out of the executive branch of government, they were never far away. They stayed in touch with defense, military, and intelligence officials, who regularly called upon them. They were, in a sense, a part of the permanent hidden national-security apparatus of the United States—inhabitants of a world in which Presidents come and go, but America keeps on fighting.

What a huge mistake it ever was to let these paranoid wierdos have any control of the US Government. No wonder they all bought Myleroie's nutball theories.

If this is any guide at all, there is absolutely no reason to believe that they would hesitate to suspend elections, institute martial law and stage a coup. Indeed, it appears they've been training to do just that for more than 20 years.

Romance Heroes

The Fighting Hellmice of the 101st Keyboarders have a new dreamboat to fantasize about:

Some of us first met "Jack" in 2001, when the Taliban had retreated from Kabul, victorious Northern Alliance fighters were parading in the streets, and US and British forces were pouring into Bagram airbase. A dapper man in a black T-shirt and combat trousers, a Glock pistol strapped in his shoulder holster, Idema gave a graphic account of his supposed experiences as a former US army Green Beret who had trained with the SAS and, as an adviser to the Tajik and Uzbek militias, had helped plan the operation to take the Afghan capital.

The meeting took place at the Mustafa Hotel, then being built in the city centre. It was another example of the seemingly endless carpetbagging opportunities then on offer. The owners were, and continue to be, a family of Afghan expatriates from New Jersey, the hotel named after one of three brothers. Sipping whiskey, then retailing at $140 a bottle at the Chelsi supermarket off Chicken Street, Idema offered to organise a convoy to Tora Bora, where the Taliban and al-Qa'ida were making what was thought to be their last stand and where, the Americans were confident, Osama bin Laden was trapped.

After making a few checks with the British military, some of us decided to decline his offer. Those who went were robbed at gunpoint a quarter of the way through the journey by their "guards" and made their way, bedraggled, back to Kabul. Jack professed to be outraged. He would take the matter up immediately with his "good friends" General Quononi, the new Defence Minister, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, the warlord, and the bandits would be summarily executed.

After that Idema would regularly turn up at the Intercontinental Hotel, where most of the foreign journalists were staying, attempting to sell videos and photographs purporting to show Taliban and al-Qa'ida terrorists training for assassinations and rehearsing gas attacks using dogs.

Some of these were bought for large sums of money, and one tape was shown on American network TV. However, Idema later declared he was going to sue over alleged breach of contract, and also threatened to "punch out" Geraldo Rivera and a Fox TV presenter in a dispute over the recordings.

This is the real story of the GWOT and it would be funny if it weren't so embarrassing. But what do we expect? We have a president who evokes Wyatt Earp dimestore novel dialog and we have a bunch of washed up losers hanging around the Mustafa hotel pretending to be glamour boys in a cheap airport thriller.

This war calls for Joseph Heller and Graham Greene and all we've got is Louis L'Amour and Frederick Forsythe.

And lets not forget Doug Upland, who reader James Woodyat reminds me is the "writer" who posts fun wingnut fantasies at Free Republic.

Just yesterday he wrote this one, which I'm sure gave the Fighting Hellmice extreme discomfort in their groin areas when they read it:

The target date was Thursday, September 2. On primetime television, the President would accept his nomination as the party standard bearer. They would prove that, no matter how good the security, they could hit where they want and when they want.

In June, 2004 they had made a dry run with three of the planes in the California desert about two hours east of Los Angeles. The chips and GPS system worked perfectly. The planes were very, very fast and performed exactly as programmed.

All of the planes were put together in their rooms a week before the convention. The deadly cargo would be installed a few hours before showtime.

It was a tense four days in New York. A hundred thousand protestors were causing mischief in the streets and did considerable amount of damage to vehicles and store fronts. The usual suspects were there --- Earth First, free Mumia, A.N.S.W.E.R., N.O.W., PETA, Mothers against Guns, No More Florida 2000, No Blood for Oil Coalition, Berkeley Peace and Justice Center, Legalize Hemp, Blind Women Who Want to Have Michael Moore's Baby, and hundreds of other Democrat groups of whiners who were bused in, many at taxpayer expense.

Michael Berg was scheduled to be a featured speaker at one of the protest rallies, but he was unfortunately accidentally hit in the face by a rock thrown by one of his leftist pals that missed the police officer at whom it was thrown. Berg returned the next day, but with his jaw wired shut, his statement had to be read by Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi blamed FreeRepublic for the rock that hit Berg. When he had his fling with her some years before, Ted Danson proved not only that white men can't jump, but sometimes white men can't see.

It was a stifling hot September day and, since most of the leftists don't bathe very often, the stench in the streets was almost overwhelming.

They wanted to kill and injure as many people as possible. Their goal was for a casualty count in the thousands. To them, it didn't matter whether they killed delegates and support staff or the leftists in the street who actually were their pals. They hoped to get high ranking officials including, of course, the President.

Since the heroic Jumpin' Jack Idema is languishing in a Kabul jail, maybe the stateside hellmice could get together and form a perimeter around Madison Square Garden to protect the prez from the unwashed leftists and their allies al-Qaeda.

Of course, you know what the real problem with all this mayhem would be:

If al-Qaida deliberately kills leftist protesters, it would send the loony left into a conspiratorial tizzy (against Republicans, of course). Politics in this country would get VERY ugly; there would be plenty of revenge attacks by loony leftists (against Republicans, not al-Qaida). It would be very , very bad. Hopefully they aren't smart enough for that.

Conspiratorial tizzy, indeed.

Covering Their Bases

Tom Ridge wants John Ashcroft to look into the possibility of postponing the election in case of a terrorist attack. Considering that Ashcroft and company have believed that the GWOT justifies everything from unlimited detention to torture it's going to be very surprising if they don't back the idea that doing so would be constitutional.

But constitutionality aside, why would there be any need to do this? We lived under the threat of nuclear war for decades --- real weapons of mass destruction pointed at all of our major cities --- and nobody ever contemplated suspending elections and devised no plans to do so. We have held elections during every war, including the civil war, and didn't contemplate suspending them in case of an attack.

This is absurd. Unless the terrorists are somehow able to prevent large numbers of people from exercising their right to vote by bombing individual polling places there can be absolutely no reason to postpone this election.
Besides, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration made quite a case a few years back that there should be no changing of the rules, even when certain rules are contradictory, in election procedures. I remember that deadlines, particularly, were sacrosanct. Indeed, the dates surrounding election laws were seen as written in stone.

Somehow, I have to believe that if terrorists attack us around the election, Americans will crawl out of the rubble on their hands and knees to vote. But then, that's obviously what they're really afraid of, isn't it?

thanks to John Gorlewski for the tip

Oh Please

The thrust of the SSIC report is that the CIA greatly overestimated the threat of Saddam Hussein and led our unsuspecting Dear Leader to invade Iraq on false pretenses. Imagine that. And one of the main documents cited in the SSIC report as proof of that claim was the October 2002 NIE report (that, incidentally, had to be specifically requested by Senators on the committee.)

Today's LA Times notes that the SSIC report points to the fact that key revisions were made to the public version of this NIE, which is interesting because nobody knows who did it. Evidently, the public NIE was phrased in language that was much less ambiguous than the original CIA document:

During a briefing before the report was released, one committee aide said the Senate panel had asked Tenet and Stu Cohen — who, as acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council, oversaw production of the NIE — who was responsible for inserting those words into the unclassified document.

"They did not know and could not explain," said the aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A similar degree of mystery surrounds the larger question of exactly how the classified NIE morphed into its unclassified version.

According to the committee report, the intelligence community began preparing an unclassified white paper on Iraq's banned weapons in May 2002, at the request of the National Security Council.

Months later, as the administration began to make its public case for war, Congress requested an official NIE. Officials at the National Intelligence Council decided to merge the white paper with declassified elements of the NIE to produce the official unclassified version.

Yes, it's quite a mystery as to who revised that NIE. One clue might be the fact that a month before the NIE was completed, the White House had released a "background paper" called "A Decade of Deception and Defiance" which very unambiguously laid out the case that Iraq was swimming in bio and chem weapons and could make a nuclear bomb in a matter of months. (Interestingly, this very same backround paper has recently been revealed to have used Judith Miller's Chalabi-fed reporting over the CIA's in at least one case.)

Now, this proves nothing about whether the White House "sexed up" the NIE but it's a fact that the White House released a backround report in September of 2002 that made sweeping claims about Saddam's WMD and terrorist ties. It is also a fact that the CIA created a classified National Intelligence Estimate a month or so later that was riddled with caveats and ambiguities about the Iraq threat. And it is now known that someone altered this classified NIE's language for public consumption to reflect the unambiguous assertions set forth in the earlier White House backround paper.

"The fact that the NIE changed so dramatically from its classified to its unclassified form and broke all in one direction, toward a more dangerous scenario … I think was highly significant," the committee's vice chairman, Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), said Friday.

No kidding.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

As The Yellowcake Turns

An interesting deconstruction of Steno Sue Schmidt's article in today's Wapo by Josh Marshall. Typically, Schmidt spins the GOP case against Joe Wilson and it's the usual mix of innuendo, bad legal reasoning and inside baseball she's known for. And it will undoubtedly take its toll on Wilson's reputation among the kewl kidz as Schmidt's special brand of whorish writing usually does.

When you cut through all the suggestive blather, the main theme seems to be that Wilson lied about his wife recommending him for the job, which even non-kewl kid Kevin Drum believes shoots Wilson's credibility all to hell.

Now, I realize that Robert Novak and the rest will be crowing about this as if they've just uncovered the Rosetta Stone, but I don't get it and I never did. From the beginning, the main thrust of the Rove/Novak item (which for some reason the White House thought would blow Wilson out of the water) was that Plame got Wilson the unpaid assignment which was apparently evidence that he's whipped by his macho secret agent wife and therefore can't be believed. It never made any sense, but I can see that it's going to be trotted out again as the ultimate gotcha and that everybody's going to be running around chasing this story when it has nothing to do with anything and never did. What would her recommendation, (whether Wilson later lied about it or not) have to do with his report?

I thought Hollywood was bad with the infighting and obsession with gossip and juvenile power games. But, DC media take the cake. If the Democrats want to get with the program they'd better learn to feed the media tittilating gossip and silly trivia to keep them running in circles. Frame any situation as soap opera and you can get your version of events into the mainstream.

Big Problem

I think we are all going to have to begin to come to grips with the fact that there is something terribly wrong with our military. It's not just that the Bush administration opened the floodgates to any and all kinds of barbaric behavior. They lost all perspective and fanned the flames of a counterproductive bloodlust for their own purposes and we'll be dealing with that for a generation at a minimum.

But, there is also something deeply amiss when a supposedly disciplined organization can deteriorate into utter chaos and depravity in the short time it took Abu Ghraib to become a hell on earth. And people knew. Lots of people knew, but it continued for months until one lowly soldier armed with irrefutable evidence finally blew the whistle.

U.S. News obtains all classified annexes to the Taguba report on Abu Ghraib:

The most comprehensive view yet of what went wrong at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, based on a review of all 106 classified annexes to the report of Major General Antonio Taguba, shows abuses were facilitated--and likely encouraged--by a chaotic and dangerous environment made worse by constant pressure from Washington to squeeze intelligence from detainees.

Daily life at Abu Ghraib, the documents show, included riots, prisoner escapes, shootings, corrupt Iraqi guards, filthy conditions, sexual misbehavior, bug-infested food, prisoner beatings and humiliations, and almost-daily mortar shellings from Iraqi insurgents. Troubles inside the prison were made worse still by a military command structure that was hopelessly broken.


Col. Henry Nelson, an Air Force psychiatrist who prepared a report for Taguba on Abu Ghraib, described it as a "new psychological battlefield," and detailed the nature of the challenge faced by the Americans working in the overcrowded prison. "These detainees are male and female, young and old," Nelson wrote; "they may be innocent, may have high intelligence value, or may be terrorists or criminals. No matter who they are, if they are at Abu Ghraib, they are remanded in deplorable, dangerous living conditions, as are soldiers."


As the top commanders battled it out, soldiers at Abu Ghraib were confused over who was in charge, the documents show. Weak leadership in the prison meant soldiers couldn?t accomplish basic tasks, like feed their detainees, much less find someone to prosecute abuse. And without a clear chain of authority, some soldiers just ran wild. "One of the tower guards was shooting prisoners with lead balls and slingshot," a company commander testified. Soldiers ran around wearing civilian clothes, and covered latrines with so much graffiti that a commander had them painted black, and then threatened to post a guard at each location. An Army captain allegedly secretly photographed female subordinates while they were showering in outside stalls.

The most serious riot, at Camp Vigilant, took place on the night of November 23 when guards shot and killed four detainees. "The prisoners were marching and yelling, 'Down with Bush,' and 'Bush is bad,'" another Army review said. "They became violent and started throwing rocks at the guards, both in the towers and at the rovers around the wire..." Guards feared for their lives "the sky was black with rocks," the report saidand a mass breakout appeared imminent. The review of the November riot cited the failure of guard commanders to post rules of engagement for dealing with insurrections. Soldiers were hesitant to shoot, and when they did shoot, they often didn?t know whether they were using lethal or non-lethal ammunition because they had mixed the ammo in their shotguns.

Another classified annex reported that the prison complex was seriously overcrowded, with detainees often held for months without ever being interrogated. Detainees walked around in knee-deep mud, "defecating and urinating all over the compounds," said Capt. James Jones, commander of the 229th MP Battalion. "I don't know how there's not rioting every day," he testified.

Among the more shocking exchanges revealed in the Taguba classified annexes are a series of E-mails sent by Major David Dinenna of the 320th MP Battalion. The E-mails, sent in October and November to Major William Green of the 800th MP Brigade, and copied to the higher chain of command, show a quixotic attempt to simply get the detainees at Abu Graib edible food. Dinenna pressed repeatedly for food that wouldn't make prisoners vomit. He criticized the private food contractor for shorting the facility on hundreds of meals a day, and for providing food containing bugs, rats, and dirt.

"As each day goes by tension within the prison population increases," Dinenna wrote. "...Simple fixes, food, would help tremendously." Instead of getting help, Major Green scolded him. "Who is making the charges that there is dirt, bugs or what ever in the food?," Major Green replied in an E-mail. "If it is the prisoners I would take it with a grain of salt." Dinenna shot back: "Our MPs, Medics and field surgeon can easily identify bugs, rats, and dirt, and they did." Ultimately, the food contract was not renewed, an Army spokeswoman says, although the contractor holds other contracts with the military.

There is no excuse for this callous attitude by officers in the American military in Iraq --- a country we were ostensibly liberating. The insurgency was and is difficult. But, this complete institutional breakdown within just a few short months is shocking. We have a problem.

Much of the blame, of course, must be laid at the top. I'm reminded again of this letter from Josh Marshall's friend in Iraq who wrote:

About the Army - Man, it hurts my heart to write this about an institution I dearly love but this army is completely dysfunctional, angry and is near losing its honor. We are back to the Army of 1968. I knew we were finished when I had a soldier point his Squad Automatic Weapons at me and my bodyguard detail for driving down the street when he decided he would cross the street in the middle of rush hour traffic (which was moving at about 70 MPH) ... He made it clear to any and all that he was preparing to shoot drivers who did not stop for his jaunt because speeding cars are "threats."

I also once had a soldier from a squad of Florida National Guard reservists raise weapons and kick the door panel of a clearly marked CPA security vehicle (big American flag in the windshield of a $150,000 armored Land Cruiser) because they wanted us to back away from them so they could change a tire ... as far as they were concerned WE (non-soldiers) were equally the enemy as any Iraqi.

Unlike the wars of the past 20 years where the Army encouraged (needed) soldiers, NGOs, allies and civil organizations to work together to resolve matters and return to normal society, the US Forces only trust themselves here and that means they set their own limits and tolerances. Abu Ghuraib are good examples of that limit. I told a Journalist the other day that these kids here are being told that they are chasing Al Qaeda in the War on Terrorism so they think everyone at Abu Ghuraib had something to do with 9/11. So they were encouraged to make them pay. These kids thought they were going to be honored for hunting terrorists.

Since Bush came into office it seems as if he has made it his purpose to corrupt every single institution in the United States. From the Supreme Court to the press to the SEC to the US Military there is nothing left of us but the bare bones of the constitution and the hope that we at least have one more free election.

Neither anarchists or terrorists have ever been so efficient.

Friday, July 09, 2004


The General has a scoop on Secret Agent Man and freelance prison warden, Keith Idema.

This is the shocker:

Well, the one identified as Jonathan Idema, appears to be "Jonathan "Keith" Idema," a fine patriotic paintball enthusiast, former Green Beret, ex-con, "father" of a someday-to-be-cloned dog (I'm not making any of this up), a "civilian" military advisor to the Northern Alliance and the "finder" of all those Al Qaeda videotapes liberated from an Afghan house awhile back.

Yes, this is the patriot who provided one of the greatest intelligence successes of the Afghan War, or at least one of the greatest public relations successes of the war--remember, under Our Leader, perception is at least as, if not more, important than reality. Of course, our government has to distance itself from him now, but there's little doubt that he served as a CIA contractor in the early stages of the war--It was a CIA operation.

Not that he was really working for the CIA or anything, but if he was, (hypothetically mind you) would hanging Afghans upside down by their feet be considered the equivalent of pain on the scale of organ failure? I don't think so. No harm no foul.

Read the rest of the General's post for more. This is war planned by the Farrelly Brothers.

Lick Bush and Dick in '04

And, why does the New York Times think this is worth not just one, but two stories?

This year was Whoopi Goldberg's turn. In her rambling monologue she made lewd jokes related to the president's surname, which President Bush's supporters pounced on as evidence of Democrats' "sickness."


The Bush campaign, however, immediately scolded Mr. Kerry for reportedly enjoying the show and demanded that his campaign release a video of the event to the public.

"At this event, there was a great deal of extreme venom and vitriol that spewed forth," said Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign. 'Both John Kerry and John Edwards lacked the leadership to stand up and say this kind of rhetoric is wrong and it demeans our civic discourse. The fact that John Kerry said these people represent the heart and soul of America shows just how far outside the mainstream John Kerry truly is."

Oh my goodness, let's see a fine example of mainstream Republican rhetoric, shall we? And it only went out to 30 million people or so, so it's not as if it demeans our civic discourse.

During an appearance on last night's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," comedian Dennis Miller unleashed a torrent of political humor aimed at Democrats who he says "are going to hell in a handbasket."


"Those are frightening affairs. That is such an empty-headed scrum those Democratic debates. I tune in, you see all nine of them together, it's like a Pez-dispenser séance."

"You know all the Democrats are going to hell in a handbasket. Now they got [California's] Nancy Pelosi. ... You ever see she has that pop-eyed look all the time? I always thought she might be hyper-thyroid, but then I heard her speak a couple times. She's stupid! The reason her eyes are so wide is that she's as shocked as we are that she made it that high!"

"Robert Byrd, this guy stands there and lectures Bush in the well of the Senate. He was in the Ku Klux Klan! He's demented. You know this guy's burning the cross at both ends! And you know something, if Robert Byrd were your grandfather and he came to Thanksgiving dinner and went off one of these demented screeds, everybody would sit there smiling at him, and as soon as he left the room, somebody'd say, 'Hey, what the hell are we gonna do about grandpa?'"

"And the Clintons won't shut up. If that marriage were any more about convenience, they'd have to install a Slim-Jim rack and a Slurpee machine at the base of the bed. [Hillary] jumps on every opportunity to take a shot at Bush. They have a blackout in New York, she starts blaming it on Bush. You know, this woman doesn't miss a trick – unless it's the one her old man's with on any given night."

I don't recall the Democrats calling a press conference and whining like a bunch of blubbering little sissies over that, but I could be mistaken.

These articles today are yet another perfect example of the press being useful idiots and conscious tools for the RNC. Limbaugh and his gang of thugs are on the air five days a week reaching tens of millions of people every single day, claiming that Democrats are filthy, traitorous enemies of America. (Not to mention his little S&M fantasies about torture to "blow off steam.") But none of that is worthy of mention in two separate articles in the same paper discussing the problems of alleged "hate-filled" rhetoric at a Democratic fundraiser, which the Republicans are blatently flogging as an example of Kerry being outside the mainstream of America.

This must be what they mean by context, balance and objectivity at the NY Times. Very impressive. I know that Bush has Saddam's pistol in the Oval Office, but I wonder if Rove has Pfc Lyndie Raines' famous leash sitting on his desk in the White House? It's such a perfect metaphor for his relationship with the press.

Life on Mars:

"I want Bush in there, because the other guy is like sending a boy to do a man's job," said Glenn Foldessy, 45, of Streetsboro, Ohio, outside Cleveland.

Back on planet Earth:

Dear Ken,

One of the sad things about old friends is that they seem to be getting older --- just like you!

55 years old. Wow! That is really old.

Thank goodness you have such a young beautiful wife.

Laura and I value our friendship with you. Best wishes to Linda, your family and friends.

Your younger friend,

George W. Bush

Come And Get It, Little Heathers

Ok. I thought the Drudge "John-John" item was funny and I even posted about it. And it is. But if anyone thinks it's just some sort of one-off joke, think again.

From Wes "wish I was in the land of cotton" Pruden, editor of the Washington Times:

The two Johns lock eyes frequently in deep contact and stop barely short of demonstrating what great kissers they may be. Monsieur Kerry might yet give us a demonstration of French kissing but, if he does, Mr. Edwards, a good ol' Carolina boy after all, will be entitled to slap his face. (Secret Service bodyguards, take note.)

Over the past two days, since Monsieur Kerry introduced his running mate at his wife's estate near Pittsburgh, "candidate handling," in the description of the Drudge Report, "has become the top buzz on the trail."

"I've been covering Washington and politics for 30 years [said one wire-service photographer]. I can say I've never seen this much touching between two men, publicly." Indeed, editors determined to preserve the appearance of a little presidential dignity and campaign decorum on "the trail" are frustrated in their search for photographs suitable for a respectable mainstream newspaper. The photographers, keen competitors for the most startling shot of the day, naturally love it.

The candidates are giving the term "Johns," heretofore familiar only in certain neighborhoods illuminated by the glow of dim red lights, an entirely new meaning. These buff and manly Johns are only following instructions to demonstrate warmth — cuddly warmth though it may be — to contrast with the chilly Republican images projected by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who keep their legs crossed and their hands to themselves at all times. No one imagines George W. inspecting Dick Cheney's cheek for razor burn in anticipation of a friendly kiss to greet the day. The president, after all, is the scion of generations of reserved and genteel WASP breeding, and the veep is a man from Wyoming, where the wrong kind of familiarity can invite a swift and fatal case of lead poisoning.

Besides, says a Kerry spokesperson, "I think we're just seeing genuine affection between them." But he adds nervously, "I hope we do not see them wearing matching outfits when they ride bikes together this weekend." No one suggests that Monsieur Kerry, who sent the Viet Cong fleeing into wild retreat into Cambodia and Laos after serving just four months in Vietnam, is any less a man than John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. John Edwards' smile makes even a feminist's heart throb with erotic speculation. The carefully calculated "candidate handling" is merely a pose to reassure voters that Monsieur Kerry does, too, have a pulse. All that's expected of John Edwards is that he learn to hug (but not kiss) in French. The rest of us will just have to grin and bear it, but from a distance. November is only five months away.

This theme is one of those snotty, RNC-fed bitch items designed to thrill the little mediawhores and make them subconsciously further the image of Democrats as "soft." And, it's about making the little tarts mindlessly portray Junior and Gepetto as the "real men" instead of the empty codpiece and the flaccid chickenhawk they are.

They are very clever with this stuff. The tone is nasty elitist, both frat-boy macho and cheerleader exclusive, the greater purpose being to plant the seed in the minds of Wolfie, MoDo, Timmy and the other Heathers, which is best accomplished by using this patented high school form of ridicule.

As the incomparable Sommerby wrote today:

Our modern press is itself a high elite; despite pious tales about Buffalo boyhoods, its opinion leaders are all multimillionaires, and even hard-charging young elite scribes know they’re on the millionaire track—and they’re careful not to blow it by getting outside the narrow confines of their elders’ world view. Most of these upscale scribes have little class perspective to suppress in the first place. But beyond that, they have no incentive to challenge their group’s perspectives, and that helps explain the nasty treatment Moore’s film has received in the press. After all, is there any elite more phony and fake than the one that is currently trashing Moore’s film? And make no mistake—these overpaid and pampered poodles tend to identify, not with Moore, but with the powdered phonies he mocks.

Republicans understand them because their lives have been shaped by the image of spoiled rich adolescence as well --- an immature elitism, born of social climbing and emotional sado-masochism. They are of the same tribe.

The John-John thing is a joke, to be sure. But, there's a message and they are confident that the mediaqueens will take the bait. They may not pass it on verbatim, but every time they get together they'll be mentioning it with hushed giggles and raised eyebrows. No doubt everyone at The Note just howled when they read Pruden's little screed this morning. He's such a delicious little bitch, isn't he? Pass it on.

Let's Role Model

Kevin tells me that good, decent Americans are having prissy fits over last night's descent into moral depravity in NYC. The shame, the decadence the...political hate speech!!! Dear Gawd, will they ever stop???

When asked this morning about the lewd, hate mongering Democrats, President Bush said solemly, "John Kerry is a major league asshole. Fuck him, we're taking him out." Dick Cheney added, "Big time. He can go fuck himself."

God bless the grown-ups of the GOP.

Promise Keeping

In the spirit of the generous advice David Brooks gave to the Democrats on the issue of our lack of proper religiosity, I'd like to return the favor. I'd like to suggest that if the Republicans want to win this fall, they need to embrace this concept with everything they've got. The whole "women should be subordinate to their husbands" idea is one their caucus should run on all across the country. The time has come.

It's true that this might, on first glance, seem counterintuitive considering that most women would burst into wild gales of laughter at the mere idea, but you have to understand that the idea hasn't been adequately explained before. Just because the woman is supposed to "place herself under the authority of the man" doesn't mean it's a one way street. As Orrin Hatch says, "I don't think anybody can read this without understanding husbands have tremendous obligations in order to gain the respect of their wives."

See? It's not like the man gets off scott free. He has to do a bunch of stuff too. That's what these bitche...er ladies don't understand. And that's what our new federal judge, J. Leon Holmes, is going to help them understand --- just like he helps 13 year old rape victims understand that they have to bear their father's child.

Like I said, I think the GOP has a winner with this campaign theme. If the Democrats bring it up over and over and over again --- after all, every single one of the Republican senators voted for it --- it will be bad news for them. There are many tens of millions of women in this country who are just dying to vote for a party that thinks women should be subserviant to men. It would be a terrible mistake to try to hang this around Republican necks. Honest. I mean that. Don't go there.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Wouldn't You Know It

Talk about your bad luck.

Pentagon Says Bush Records of Service Were Destroyed

Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.

The loss was announced by the Defense Department's Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review in letters to The New York Times and other news organizations that for nearly half a year have sought Mr. Bush's complete service file under the open-records law.

There was no mention of the loss, for example, when White House officials released hundreds of pages of the President's military records last February in an effort to stem Democratic accusations that he was "AWOL" for a time during his commitment to fly at home in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director who has said that the released records confirmed the president's fulfillment of his National Guard commitment, did not return two calls for a response.

The disclosure that the payroll records had been destroyed came in a letter signed by C. Y. Talbott, chief of the Pentagon's Freedom of Information Office, who forwarded a CD-Rom of hundreds of records that Mr. Bush has previously released, along with images of punch-card records. Sixty pages of Mr. Bush's medical file and some other records were excluded on privacy grounds, Mr. Talbott wrote.

He said in the letter that he could not provide complete payroll records, explaining, "The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has advised of the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll records."

He went on: "In 1996 and 1997, DFAS engaged with limited success in a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. During this process the microfilm payroll records of numerous service members were damaged, including from the first quarter of 1969 (Jan. 1 to March 31) and the third quarter of 1972 (July 1 to Sept. 30). President Bush's payroll records for these two quarters were among the records destroyed. Searches for backup paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful."

I seem to recall that this used to be the kind of thing for which we assigned special prosecutors and held televised congressional hearings. But that was when we had a president who had no honor and integrity so it was different.

This is just one more of the hundreds of felicitous coincidences that have beset our Crusader Codpiece over the years. Just because people have been trying to get ahold of those records for ages and it's only now that we find out that they were destroyed seven or eight years ago is no reason to be suspicious. I'll bet Junior is just mad as heck about the whole business. The one thing he really wanted to do was clear this thing up before the election.

Hot Man On Man Action

Drudge had to put down his little mouse and take a long drag off of Lucianne's Virginia Slim Menthol 100 after putting that steamy montage together.

Does anyone smell the faint whiff of GOP flop sweat in the air?

Four More Years!

Be a Billionaire For Bush

They're taking a Limo through the swing states to tell voters the good news ...

I love these guys.

I'm Going To Hell

I am against this kind of thing. There really is no excuse for it. However, as I am a red-blooded American, brought up in a certain way at a certain time, I must confess that I sometimes cannot resist a little trip to the dark side.

I hope you all can forgive me. I'm weak.

Fools On The Hill

I would be with all the BigMediaBloggers on this except that I think having BushCo and the boyz spend a couple of weeks arguing about whether to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage makes them look so ridiculous at this particular political moment that it might just be worth it.

If it was 1998 and the wingnuts had the luxury of playing silly culture war games for fun and profit, I'd say it would be best to get the debate out of the way and off the radar screen. But today, I think there's real value in having the Republicans on the evening news spitting and hollaring about something that ends up at about #733 on the average American's list of priorities. (This is not to say that I don't think the issue matters to many people, pro and con, but it just isn't critical at this moment.)

It just seems to me that the more the GOP is exposed for their deep lack of seriousness, the better off we are. Seeing Inhofe, Frist and "Bowser" Santorum rail about slippery slopes and bestiality on the evening news strikes me as good politics. And it's telling that at this late date they are still playing to their base when they should be awkwardly clapping and singing "Proud Mary" with african american kids and talking about their support for pre-natal care and puppies. Their necessary tack to the middle is seriously off schedule. Is it in our interest to help them get on course?

Watch What You Say

This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if Bush, Ashcroft and Company haven't already screwed this country up so badly that it will never recover:

"How are you?" asked the airport security person who popped up beside me on my way to baggage claim.

"Uh, fine — thanks," I replied, wondering, why are you asking?

As if she'd read my thoughts, she told me there had been complaints about me on the airplane. Then she asked to see the crossword puzzle I'd been working on during the flight. Huh? I thought. Talk about being puzzled! Still, my grin was smug as I handed it over. I'd just completed the Friday New York Times puzzle, for the first time ever.

But the agent ignored the crossword, turning the paper sideways to read a line I'd scribbled in the margin: "I know this is kind of a bomb."

She pointed to the sentence, her finger resting on the word "bomb." "What does this mean?" she demanded.

Suddenly a light went on in my head. I remembered the passenger on my left leaning forward in his seat as I scribbled while we waited for takeoff. Seconds later, he'd clambered hastily over me without apology to make his way to the front of the plane. I'd assumed intestinal complications, but now that I thought about it, he hadn't used the bathroom. He'd spoken briefly with the flight attendants and returned to his seat. As the security woman looked at me, I now realized the passenger had been about as interested in my puzzling prowess as she was.

"I know this is kind of a bomb" is what I imagine Bucky, my main character, would say to Julie, his love interest, in the critical scene of my novel. I explained to the security woman that this is what happens when a 42-year-old man who is to literature what a karaoke singer is to opera tries to put words in the mouth of a fictional 19-year-old.

I opened my laptop and showed her shining example after shining example of similarly awful dialogue. She understood that that word, b-o-m-b, was no reference to ordnance or terrorist weapons of any kind.

But my explanation wasn't good enough for the three Dallas police officers who meanwhile had surrounded me — summoned, I supposed, for backup in case the dangerous character tried to write something even worse.

One took my driver's license to run a fruitless background check (the closest I ever came to being in trouble with the law was accepting a beer at age 17 from the teen-age daughter of the Nantucket Island police chief). A particularly hostile cop asked me a strangely menacing question: "So, how many books have you gotten made?" I started my usual backpedaling answer to that query, honed to perfection in the Dallas bar scene, but he cut me off: "That's not what I asked." I told him I must have misunderstood. He responded, "You're a writer and you don't understand my words?"


...the honcho gravely warned me that while I hadn't crossed the line, I had walked right up to it. And for that I would be on Homeland Security's watch list.

Have we all just gotten used to the idea of a "Homeland Security Watchlist?" Do we have even the vaguest clue about who might be on it and what criteria are used? Is this one of those times when sage law and order conservatives tell you that if you're innocent you don't have anything to worry about?

Here we have a situation in which some nosy asshole sitting in the seat next to you sees that you wrote the word "bomb," and reports it. And some person in authority says that you've walked right up to a "line" you had no idea even existed and are now on a list which means that if anything ever happens again --- you are overheard saying "jihad" or perhaps "fuck Bush" --- and you are "questioned" again, you are already in the database as someone who is being watched.

Perhaps this doesn't happen often. But there are other stories of little things happening that make me begin to have doubts about our ability to withstand this threat of terrorism. For instance, there was this story last month about a British journalist's dealings with American authorities:

Somewhere in central Los Angeles, about 20 miles from LAX airport, there is a nondescript building housing a detention facility for foreigners who have violated US immigration and customs laws. I was driven there around 11pm on May 3, my hands painfully handcuffed behind my back as I sat crammed in one of several small, locked cages inside a security van. I saw glimpses of night-time urban LA through the metal bars as we drove, and shadowy figures of armed security officers when we arrived, two of whom took me inside. The handcuffs came off just before I was locked in a cell behind a thick glass wall and a heavy door. No bed, no chair, only two steel benches about a foot wide. There was a toilet in full view of anyone passing by, and of the video camera watching my every move. No pillow or blanket. A permanent fluorescent light and a television in one corner of the ceiling. It stayed on all night, tuned into a shopping channel.

After 10 minutes in the hot, barely breathable air, I panicked. I don't suffer from claustrophobia, but this enclosure triggered it. There was no guard in sight and no way of calling for help. I banged on the door and the glass wall. A male security officer finally approached and gave the newly arrived detainee a disinterested look. Our shouting voices were barely audible through the thick door. "What do you want?" he yelled. I said I didn't feel well. He walked away. I forced myself to calm down. I forced myself to use that toilet. I figured out a way of sleeping on the bench, on my side, for five minutes at a time, until the pain became unbearable, then resting in a sitting position and sleeping for another five minutes. I told myself it was for only one night.

As it turned out, I was to spend 26 hours in detention. My crime: I had flown in earlier that day to research an innocuous freelance assignment for the Guardian, but did not have a journalist's visa.


Finally, after much scurrying around by officers, I was invited into an office and asked if I needed anything before we began. I requested a glass of water, which the interrogating officer brought me himself. He was a gentle, intelligent interrogator: the interview lasted several hours and consisted of a complete appraisal of my life, past and present, personal and professional. He needed information as diverse as my parents' names, the fee I would be paid for the article I was working on, what it was about, exactly, and, again, the names of people I was coming to interview. My biography was a confusing issue - I was born in one country, had lived in many others: who was I, exactly? For US immigration, my British passport was not enough of an identity. The officer said, pointedly, "You are Russian, yet you claim to be British", an accusation based on the fact that I was born in Moscow (though I never lived there). Your governor, went my mental reply, is Austrian, yet he claims to be American. After about three hours, during which I tried hard to fight jetlag and stay alert, we had produced several pages that were supposed to provide the invisible person in charge with enough material to say yes or no to my request to be allowed entry. My interrogator asked one last obligatory question, "Do you understand?"

"Yes, I understand," I sighed, and signed the form. The instant faxed response was an official, final refusal to enter the US for not having the appropriate visa. I'd have to go back to London to apply for it.

At this moment, the absurd but almost friendly banter between these men and myself underwent a sudden transformation. Their tone hardened as they said that their "rules" demanded that they now search my luggage. Before I could approach to observe them doing this, the officer who had originally referred me to his supervisor was unzipping my suitcase and rummaging inside. For the first time, I raised my voice: "How dare you touch my private things?"

"How dare you treat an American officer with disrespect?" he shouted back, indignantly. "Believe me, we have treated you with much more respect than other people. You should go to places like Iran, you'd see a big difference." The irony is that it is only "countries like Iran" (for example, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe) that have a visa requirement for journalists. It is unheard of in open societies, and, in spite of now being enforced in the US, is still so obscure that most journalists are not familiar with it. Thirteen foreign journalists were detained and deported from the US last year, 12 of them from LAX.

After my luggage search, the officer took some mugshots of me, then proceeded to fingerprint me.

Keep in mind, this was last month, not November 2001.

OK, maybe it's silly for me to get so white hot, angry when I read these stories. It's just one female journalist and she was in technical violation. It was only a misunderstanding about the word "bomb" written on a newspaper. Perhaps these are isolated cases. That petty bureaucrats use language that is remarkably similar to that used by our president and his political allies in comparing the wonderful treatment under our police state as compared with that under really awful police states is surely just a rhetorical coincidence.

But, after seeing the Justice Department issue opinions that the president has unlimited powers in wartime and that anything, including torture, is justified to "defend the homeland" it doesn't really seem so silly after all. The stories begin to accumulate, each one a random intrusion by dumb, underqualified government authorities who seem to have watched too much television and have very little common sense.

If this keeps up, sooner or later we will all end up, in one way or another, on the "Homeland Security Watchlist" where anyone from a professional rival to a vengeful neighbor can be the instrument of terror in a way that bin Laden and gang can only envy. In fact, these little people with too much power scare me a hundred times more than the Islamic terrorists. The threat that lives among us is ourselves.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Kerry/Edwards --- It's Got A Ring To It

I'm busy today, so I won't be able to post much, but I did want to weigh in and say how glad I am that Kerry picked Edwards. It was the obvious choice and Kerry handled the mediakids' anticipatory meltdown like the political pro he is. This is a good ticket --- and we know it's a good ticket by the fevered, hysterical reaction of the GOP. (And whoever duped the Post deserves to be put in the Democratic Hall of Fame.)

Last year right around this time, before the Dean phenomenon took off and before my choice, Wes Clark, entered the race, I posted a piece about John Edwards. When I went back to read it, I was a little bit surprised at how much he impressed me and I was reminded of what I liked about him. If it hadn't been for the fact that Crusader Codpiece was being hailed as a Warrior King by every press tart from CNN to The National Enquirer, I would have easily supported his candidacy. He is very, very good.

So, in the spirit of welcoming John Edwards to the ticket without reservation, I'm republishing my thoughts about him of a year ago:


“Equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.”

I just read something that blew the top of my head off and has me reeling with appreciation and awe. Maybe everybody in Blogovia has already discussed John Edwards speech of last week, but I just got to it.

This is the single most creative re- framing of issues I've seen in many a year. In fact, it is so audacious, it might just work.

Do you want to see a wing nut's head spin around like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist? Try comparing Bush's economic policies to socialism:

This is the most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism a century ago. Like socialism, it corrupts the very nature of our democracy and our free enterprise tradition. It is not a plan to grow the American economy. It is a plan to corrupt the American economy."

Damn. That is just beautiful.

Edwards gets it. It's about changing the Left/Right paradigm and putting the Republicans off balance, without moving further to the right. This is new and it has the potential to seriously shake up the dynamic, particularly if the economy continues to sputter. This is just great -- a truly new way of coming at the Republicans, using all of their patented propaganda tags against them. It's awfully smart and I would hope that every Dem candidate keeps this in the back of his mind.

I'm not signing on to any particular campaign this early in the race. But, I think the Democratic candidates are all good people and I wouldn't be unhappy with any of them (although Lieberman, with his moralizing and religiosity, would be very hard to take.) I am partial to Clark because I think he neutralizes a potent issue for the GOP, has a great Q rating and it would be nice to catch a fucking break like that for once. Earlier, I mentioned that Dean has a fiesty attitude that I find refreshing and inspirational and John Kerry is a good man with a fine mind and a lifetime of experience to prepare him for the job.

But, Edwards is the natural of the bunch. He's the one who has the talent to really communicate with average Americans and get them to recognize that the Republican Party does not have their best interest at heart. Like Clinton, he is very, very good at explaining complicated issues in understandable terms without being condescending. 20 years as a litigator will do that, and from all reports he was an extremely effective advocate before a jury.

Our economy, our people, and our nation have been undermined by the crony capitalists who believe that success is all about working the angles, working the phones, and rigging the game, instead of hard work, innovation and frugality.

And these manipulators find comfort in an Administration which, through its own example, seems to embrace that ethic.

We will never turn this country around until we put our economy and our government back in line with our values."


It’s time for a new approach that trusts people to make the most of their own lives and gives them the chance to do so. It’s time to stop emboldening entrenched interests and start empowering regular people. Above all, it’s time to end the failed conservative experiment and return to the idea that made this country great: Instead of helping wealthy people protect their wealth, we should help working people build their wealth."

The President and I agree on one thing: this campaign should be a debate about values. We need to have that debate, because the values of this president and this administration are not the values of mainstream America, the values all of us grew up with – opportunity, responsibility, hard work.

There’s a fundamental difference between his vision and mine. I believe America should value work. He only values wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more. I want to make sure everybody has the chance to be an owner.

That is progressivism turned inside out. PoMo populism. As with the flag and God, the smart Democrat (and the one who will beat Bush) will take those "bedrock American" advertising symbols and use the patented GOP rhetorical stylebook to his own purposes, because whether we like it or not, that stylebook defines political speech in this era so we'd better start finding ways to use it to our own ends.

(And, through this whole speech he very subtly digs at Bush's pedigreed sense of privilege. Junior is a spoiled little fucker and although nobody wants to admit it, it's something everybody knows. Maybe in 2000 when everybody asumed that they too were going to be rich and privileged, it didn't matter so much. It could have a little more relevence this time around.)

Look at the choices they make: They have driven up the share of the tax burden for most working people, and driven down the burden on the richest few. They got rid of even the smallest tax on even the largest inheritances on earth. This past month, in a $350 billion bonanza of tax cuts on wealth, they couldn’t find $3.5 billion to give the child tax credit to poor people who work. Listen to this: They refused to cut taxes for the children of 250,000 American soldiers who are risking their lives for us in Iraq, so they could cut dividend and capital gains taxes for millionaires who were selling stocks short until the war was over.


It is wrong to reward those who don’t have to work at the expense of those who do. If we want America to be a growing, thriving democracy, with the greatest work ethic and the strongest middle class on earth, we must choose a different path.

If Junior ever had to debate a trial lawyer like John Edwards, he wouldn't stand a chance trying to defend himself against a charge like that. What in the hell can any Republican say to that argument? They'll scream class warfare, but in light of the charges it starts to sound like sniveling defensiveness. They really have gone to far and all it will take is for somebody to find the right way to educate the American people about what has been done to them.

Third, I will cut taxes to encourage savings and wealth creation for the middle class and working poor, not take away their tax cuts. I believe ordinary Americans are taxed too much, not too little. As a direct result of this President’s policies, all across this country people are seeing their property taxes, their sales taxes, their state and local income taxes, and their college tuition bills go up. Now some in my party want to take away their federal income tax cuts, too. That’s wrong. The answer to Republicans who have made middle-class incomes and nest eggs go down should not be Democrats who make middle-class taxes go up.

I know this President wants to make the next election about taxes. That’s why I’m going to tell America the whole story: “This president is the reason your taxes are going up. I’m going to cut them.”

Woah Nelly. Walter Mondale, take a look in the funhouse mirror. He's saying that Bush is making taxes go UP for ordinary Americans. That is brilliant. Paula Zahn will pop a vein trying to wrap her mind around that concept. It's also true, of course, but rather than get into some long winded discussion of tax rates and the state budget crisis' Edwards just says bluntly, "Bush is making your taxes go up. I'm going to cut them."

Eat shit Grover.

I care deeply about this, because it’s the reason I’m standing here. My dad worked his whole life in the mill. When I was young, my mom folded sheets on the second shift. Both my parents started out with nothing, except a blessing that was worth more than diamonds and gold – the chance to live in a country whose dream belongs to anyone willing to work for it.

A country where the sweat and toil of mill workers can give a boy the chance to one day run for President is a far different place than a country that says how you’re born, not how hard your work, is all that matters. I owe everything I am to the America I grew up in. I hope you’ll join with me and fight with all we’ve got to save it.

The fucking American dream, baby. The immigrant, the working stiff, the self-made man putting in the hours and sweating the blood so that his kids can have a better life. Being the first in your family to go to college and going on to become one of the most successful lawyers in the country, a US Senator and a presidential candidate. It's not quite as inspiring as a rich, alcoholic playboy sobering up at 40 and allowing his daddy's rich friends to buy him a codpiece so he can eliminate the inheritance tax for himself, but it might have a chance.

This is a very interesting direction that Edwards is going. There is some salience to the shame factor among the rich, as well. I happened to listen to a group of Republican ladies discussing politics the other day (don't ask), and they were quite uncomfortable with the idea that their leaders were saying that poor people shouldn't get tax cuts and particularly the fact that some were left out of the recent tax cut bill. One of the gals said, "That's really not right. It makes me feel embarrassed."

I wish that we didn't have to use rhetoric of religion, values and tax cuts. It's tiring to hear it. But, we do. It's what people's ears are trained to hear in this era. And, there is no use pretending that reversing Bush's tax cuts is going to be a simple matter even if we win the presidency. It makes sense to begin laying the groundwork, however, for reversing the outrageous tax cuts on the rich, which will have to be done. This is a very effective way of beginning to make that case.

And, Edwards is using some language that I think has been too long neglected by Democrats and speaks to something that is an undercurrent of discomfort amongst average Americans who don't follow politics in great detail --- the oddly unamerican nature of our current leaders relationship to wealth and power.

"Here in Washington, we like to think we’re important. But what’s great about America is that whether you’re a senator or a bus driver doesn’t make you a better person. You just have different jobs. America is not a nation of kings and commoners, masters and servants. We’re a nation where every person has equal value, every dream deserves an equal chance, and every soul should be as equal in the law of the land as it is in the eyes of God."

That's a Democrat talking, there, and everybody knows it.

Bush can spout bullshit like "soft bigotry of low expectations" and "I care about the working people", but every poll shows that most most Americans do not believe he cares about or understands people like them. There's power in this message. It's worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Don't Tread On Me

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
Samuel Adams

Ye olde civil discourse in action.

I've always loved the Fourth of July. It's not just because it's in the middle of summer and fireworks and picnics are fun, although those are good reasons. It's because I've always loved the feelings that American patriotism at its best inspires. Phrases like "all men are created equal" and words like "liberty" are concepts that run deeply in my American soul.

It makes me sick to see those words turned into cheap advertising slogans by people who believe in exactly the opposite, but it has ever been thus. Those words are emotional words, they make you feel things, and good advertising men know that's a key to making a sale. So, I understand. But, I still hate it.

As a Democrat I fall into the liberal category more than the progressive, I'm afraid, although I'm comfortable in each of those camps. I do believe that society needs government for more than defense, policing and contract disputes and I don't have a strong emotional attachment to property rights above all else. Reasonable taxation seems like common sense to me and certain necessary functions don't seem to respond well to the market, so I'm not a libertarian.

But, I am a liberal in much of the classical sense. I have a visceral mistrust of power so intense that all intrusions against civil liberties and individual rights are suspect in my mind until proven otherwise. The idea of innocent men being imprisoned with no due process, people being unable to marry who they choose or have dominion over their own bodies, censorship, forced religion and any other use of power against individuals is something that I believes requires a huge amount of deliberation, debate and thought before it should ever be implemented in the name of security, community or anything else. Indeed, in my mind, humans are such unreliable and incompetent creatures that it's best if we just don't go there at all.

It's a strange form of democracy we have because of its dual purpose of fulfilling the desire of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. It creates a tension between the two pillars of the American system: freedom and equality. We are always measuring our progress between those two poles and it's never easy. But, to be an American is to hold both of those ideas as ideal. Indeed, America will cease to be America if we don't.

I have never agreed with this manifest destiny, American exceptionalism crapola. We come up so short, so often, within our own country that it is folly of the highest order to believe that we have a right to evangelize to the rest of the world. But, that doesn't mean that we haven't got something fine going here that deserves to be preserved, defended and respected.

There are many reasons to love our country, of course. But, most importantly, I think, it's that it is the repository of a bunch of great ideas about those words that move me so much --- freedom, equality, inalienable human rights. We are very far from achieving the perfection of those ideas, and we do have a bad habit of being most disappointingly willing to toss these concepts aside when it suits us. But, for the most part, we still manage to go one step forward for every two steps back and that's worth a lot.

If you have a chance today, read the Bill of Rights. It's our single greatest political contribution to the advancement of mankind.

Happy Fourth of July, my fellow imperfect Americans.

Friday, July 02, 2004


Maybe those Florida second graders should have had Junior read "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," on the morning of 9/11.

Warheads found in Iraq not chemical weapons, military says

Artistic License

I haven't written all that much about F9/11 because everyone else has covered that ground so beautifully. And, as is often the case, Krugman seems to have distilled the blogosphere's CW and written a wonderful column today that everyone is talking about. He is absolutely correct that the media is bizarrely holding a known left wing polemicist to a higher standard than the president of the United States. How odd.

I only have one small point to add to all this. Susan wrote something today that I hadn't heard anyone else put quite that way. She said the film is a work of art that tells powerful truths.

This is an important thing to realize about film as opposed to the television and journalistic he said/she said methods of persuasion. Film, like the novel, even in a documentary style, tells emotional truth. And F9/11, in the hands as it is of a powerfully talented filmmaker does just that.

The reason people are responding is because they have been terribly confused. Those of us who have been following this story in minute detail are not surprised by anything the film says, from the more conspiratorial connect-the-dots speculation to the real pain and trauma of seeing actual human beings, children and soldiers alike, hurt and maimed for reasons that make little obvious sense. These are things we've been seeing and feeling and trying to sort out since they happened. But, we are filled with a sense of emotional catharsis when we see it because it tells the truth in a much more real way than any news story or blog post has ever done.

And many people who are just living their lives and maybe picked up a paper or watched CNN from time to time have been buffetted by the strange hyper-patriotism, the PR stuntmaking, the reasoning and rationales that don't seem to connect and they are left feeling oddly fractured and discontented. This movie gives them a sense of order out of chaos in which they are able for the first time to make sense of what they are feeling. A counter-narrative that brings their gut and their brain back into balance.

For instance, many people felt uncomfortable with George W. Bush's leadership and they didn't know exactly why. After all, the opinion makers and TV news starts acted as if he were Alexander the Great and Abraham Lincoln rolled into one for a long, long time. Who were they to argue? And yet....

Seeing him read that children's book after his chief of staff whispered "Mr. President, we are under attack," says everything you need to know about his leadership abilities. Until this movie, only a small handful of people had ever seen that footage and understood exactly what it meant. President George W. Bush is a frontman who sat and read to schoolchildren, waiting for further instructions, after the nation was attacked. It fits. Ah hah.

The movie has many of those moments, where what you've been feeling, what's been nagging at the back of your mind suddenly makes sense.

As Krugman and others have rightly pointed out, if the media had been doing their jobs, there would be no audience for Michael Moore today. It's because journalism failed that art has had to step into the void and tell people the bigger, universal truths. To complain that art is not explicitly factual at this late date shows more than a little chutpah.

Joe Blow

Can I just say how much I hope that Kerry doesn't pick Joe Biden for Vice President? Not that I think he isn't eminently qualified or that he isn't smart, capable and somewhat charismatic in his own way. It's a personal thing. I find him almost insufferably pompous, self aggrandizing and full of shit at least half the time.

Josh Marshall's interview today does nothing to dispel that opinion. Old Joe is always telling tales about how he told the people in power what was what and they finally have to admit that he was right about everything. It's a funny thing, though. When I really tuned in to him for the first time was in the Clarence Thomas hearings. He didn't exactly speak truth to power in that one.

According to this he's been haranguing the Democratic establishment for years to do things his way and they've finally come around. Why, he planned the successful Kosovo strategy virtually all alone, apparently.

Hell, what do I know? Maybe he did. Perhaps it's just a temperamental thing or he reminds me of someone I used to know or something. But, from the first, I've just had the opinion that the guy is an utter egomaniac.

Not that it makes any difference, of course. I'd vote for Satan for VP if he had a D after his name this time.

God Made Him An Offer He Couldn't Refuse

Marlon Brando died today. I suppose, like all celebrity deaths, some mean more to us than others. This one means something to me.

It's not that I have any particular feeling for Brando as an individual. He was only mildly interesting as a person. Perhaps the most interesting thing he ever said (and it revealed a lot about his acting) was "The more sensitive you are, the more likely you are to be brutalised, develop scabs and never evolve. Never allow yourself to feel anything because you always feel too much." Perhaps his great talent was to be able to channel that enormous sensitivity into his characters.

I have long thought that he was the greatest American film actor ever. There was a time in my life when such a thing seemed very important and I spent long hours watching and studying film. In my view, nobody could touch him at his best. I still think so.

He is now thought of as The Godfather, which isn't a bad role to have as your enduring image. It's the most memorable role in one of the most iconic movies ever made. (In my view, the best movie ever made.) But, Brando's filmography actually contains a handful of the best performances ever captured on film.

In the 50's he epitomized "the method" the natural acting style popularized by the Actor's Studio. But, Lee Strasbourg said that he didn't teach Brando a thing. He showed up fully formed as an actor --- he just had it. For those of you who are too young to have paid any attention to him as anything beyond Don Vito, you really should take a look at A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, Viva Zapata and The Wild One.

As great an actor as he was, he wasn't the smartest guy on the block. He got himself caught up in the 60's and did almost nothing of note. And then along came The Godfather. But, that same year he made another movie which I think may be his greatest performance ever --- Last Tango in Paris. Most people remember it for it's explicit sexuality, which was groundbreaking at the time. But, Brando delivers a performance so complex, so intimate, so amazingly sensitive yet brutal that when I was a freshman in college and saw it the first time it went so far over my head that I hated it. Ten years later I saw it again and it left me speechless with wonder. Still does.

Brando reached his peak with those two incredible performances, I think, although Apocalypse Now has stood the test of time much better than I thought when I first saw it. I was caught up in the process of filmmaking in those days and appalled to read that Brando had so compromised Coppolla's vision of Col. Kurtz by showing up on the set overweight and unprepared that I overlooked how remarkable his large, bald shadowed head and hypnotic voice really was. His performances were often like that for me. I'd see the film and get a certain impression. Then I'd see it again later and the brilliance of the performance would just wash over me like a warm wave and I'd get it.

In later years, he was this overpaid character actor with bad celebrity kids.(And sometimes he was just beyond weird as in The Island of Doctor Moreaux.) But, there were flashes of his brilliance from time to time as when he sent up his Godfather role in The Freshman or when he somehow managed to make himself charming and sexually attractive in Don Juan DeMarco despite being an elderly man who weighed 350 pounds. (Now that's acting!)

I'm sure there will be much finer eulogies and obituaries than this one over the next few days. But, this one's from the heart. His legacy is a precious gift to the art of film and acting. RIP Marlon Brando. Thanks.